For those interested in such things, the pitch meeting for “Town of the Living Dead,” a Syfy unscripted comedy, had to go something like this: “Think, ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,’ with a touch of ‘Project Greenlight.’ Oh, and zombies. Did we mention the zombies?” Yet while this represents a lower-octane way to chase after “The Walking Dead’s” footprint than the recent drama “Z Nation,” it’s still a rather uninspired addition to reality TV’s hillbilly chic craze, aimed at those apt to swallow anything they see on TV as gospel and who like their brains deep-fried.
The series is set in the small Alabama town of Jasper, where residents have been working on their own homemade zombie movie, “Thr33 Days Dead,” for the past six years, or so we’re told. The producer, Tina Teeter, has sunk $25,000 into the effort, she says, violating, among other things, Hollywood’s “Never use your own money” maxim.
Not surprisingly, those working on the film are the entertainment version of the Island of Misfit Toys: A director, John Ware, who toils at Radio Shack, and struggles to make decisions; Bryan Boylen, a leading man plagued by anxiety issues; Chase Lawrence, a co-star who lives with his mother; Terry Hunter, a makeup artist who refers to himself as the “token gay guy.” And so on.
Unfortunately, the first two episodes immediately dive into the logistics of shooting the movie — like recruiting local townsfolk to dress up and play extras — without digging into the backstories, starting with what motivated Tina to do this, how she’s paying for it and (perhaps most obviously) what the intrusion of TV producers means for the process. The show says Syfy will air the movie if the crew can ever get it finished, but that’s presented as a virtual afterthought.
Instead, viewers of these initial episodes are treated to typical reality-TV conventions, including the not-very-suspenseful plot point of whether the producers can actually mount a shot where a boat (really, more like a canoe) blows up, having decided they need to incorporate some special effects — which is every bit as riveting as that sounds.
Syfy is positioning the series as part of its “31 Days of Halloween” marathon, and in one respect, it fits right in with a lot of the schlocky movies that will pad out that schedule. Still, what this benign, not-all-that-colorful sojourn to Alabama unleashes feels a lot closer to a pastel drip than a crimson tide.